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Ocean Safety

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 A Safety Guide for Local Ocean Activities


A Safety Guide for Local Ocean Activities

Ocean Safety Tips for beachgoers and surfers

Ocean conditions (swells, currents, wind) are often unpredictable and change fast! Make sure you're aware of them before you go in or near the water, and know your limitations. Use the available predictions tools (buoy reports, national weather service radio, Web sites) to learn how ocean conditions may change.


  • Surfers should only push their limits at a break they are familiar with. Don't paddle out to an area you've never surfed before on a big day. Use a small day to learn entry and exit points, current directions, bottom contours, etc. If in doubt, don't go out!
  • Always wear a wetsuit to avoid hypothermia.
  • Never go swimming by yourself. Use the buddy system especially when surfing remote areas.
  • Stay behind fences along coastal cliffs and off wet rocks. Intermittent waves of unusual size and force may sweep across even previously dry areas causing injury or death.
  • Never turn you back on the ocean.
  • Children must always be closely supervised at the beach. If you're unsure of water conditions, go to a beach with on-duty lifeguards and ask safety personnel.
  • If you think you see a swimmer or boater in distress, do not hesitate to call 911 or use the nearest call box along West Cliff Drive.

Ocean Safety tips for all boaters

  • Know before you go: It's paramount all boaters know and understand current and predicted marine weather conditions before going out in the ocean. Use available resources including the national weather service and contacting local safety agencies.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) for each person on board. They must be readily accessible and should be worn when transiting in and out of the harbor areas due to shallow depth and unpredictable breaking waves. Wearing PFDs saves lives!
  • Have a good anchor on board with plenty of line and bottom chain.
  • Double check all safety gear and know how to use the following equipment: VHF marine radio, flares, PFDs, charts and electronic equipment. Brief your passengers on board with the essentials.
  • Know where you are at all times. Be able to communicate your position and water depth.
  • Be knowledgeable of local conditions. Areas that are safe in the calm summer months may be extremely hazardous in the winter months or with a change in tidal conditions. Ask local safety agencies such as Harbor Patrol, Coast Guard and Lifeguards for local knowledge.
  • Boaters in the open ocean should stay in water no shallower than 60 feet and should stay away at least 300 yards away from all reefs and beaches.
  • Boating and alcohol do not mix. Ocean environmental conditions such as sea movement, wind, sun exposure and other stressors often enhance the effects of alcohol and impair judgment, leading to disastrous consequences.

For questions regarding your local beaches and aquatic / boating safety, contact the following agencies:

  • Santa Cruz City Lifeguards: 831-420-6015, for 24 hour weather and offshore buoy reports press option number two.
  • Santa Cruz State Lifeguards: 831-427-4868
  • Santa Cruz Harbor Patrol: 831-475-6161